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Us 9, New York 5, Rehema Ellis 4, Obama 4, Tennessee 4, Lester Holt 2, George Blanda 2, Airtran 2, Ibm 2, Obama Administration 2, Bp 2, Nbc 2, Michelle Rhee 2, Jeffrey Canada 2, Los Angeles 2, Washington 2, America 2, Thad Allen 1, Lisa Myers 1, Lisa Meyers 1,
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    September 27, 2010
    5:30 - 5:59pm PDT  

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on our broadcast here this monday night, "education nation." confronting a problem that affects every american and some blunt talk from the president about where his kids go to school. in the zone. why is this man getting so much attention? could it be because of his plan for the entire nation? and the competition to be the best across the country. schools outdoing each other for big money rewards. also tonight, crude reality. despite the efforts of some to make us think it's all gone, turns out most of the oil that spilled into the gulf is still there. "nightly news" begins now. captions paid for by nbc-universal television
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good evening. it's enough to make you believe that education, specifically fixing education, is now emerging as a real national goal. at least it's officially part of the national conversation. as you may know, we're hosting this multi-day summit here at rockefeller plaza in new york called "education nation." and today, the story advanced with news on education from the president of the united states on down. and some of the people in the fight seem actually hopeful that breakthroughs and real change could start coming fast. we want to begin our coverage tonight with lester holt here in the studio. lester, good evening. >> reporter: those gathered here agree the system has to be overhauled but changing the way we educate our kids means challenging long-held traditions and as that can be a very difficult conversation. >> it is my pleasure to welcome
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you to education nation on rockefeller plaza. >> reporter: under one tent, at least until a heavy downpour forced them indoors, teachers, administrators and policymakers confronting a crisis in american education. >> we have a system funding things that just don't work. >> i think we need clear standards for all teachers. >> i think teachers are under attack. >> it's not about good schools versus bad schools. >> the system is broken. >> reporter: and coming together to explore solutions. >> we're very excited about it because it creates a national dialogue around something that's hugely important and challenging. >> reporter: a dialogue president obama joined in, in a live discussion with matt lauer and our audience here in new york. >> i wanted to know whether or not you think that malia and sasha would get the same high quality rigorous education in a d.c. public school compared to their very elite private academy they're attending now? >> thanks for the question, kelly. i'll be blunt with you. the answer is no right now.
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the d.c. public school systems are struggling. >> you wake up every morning and you know that kids are getting a really crappy education right now. >> reporter: the d.c. schools are featured in the new documentary "waiting for superman" which explores the effects of teacher tenure. last night the film was screened for a crowd that included the head of d.c. schools michelle rhee. rhee has been trying to purge her schools of failing principals and teachers. at an education nation panel, she sparred with the teachers union boss. >> we need to have real evaluation systems, which is what the union has been focused on, so teachers are judged fairly and systems that help create continuous improvement. and at the same time have some due process so that we guard against arbitrating it. >> from my perspective, it seems like what was scary to people was this idea of beginning to differentiate folks. so we're going to differentiate
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and recognize and reward the highest performing teachers and look at the lowest performing teachers and we're going to remove them from the system. that is a concept that is so necessary. >> reporter: meantime, the obama administration is focusing on bringing new teachers into the mix. today, announcing a goal of recruiting 10,000 new science, technology, engineering and math teachers. >> we have to be much more creative. if we want better results, we have to do things very differently. >> reporter: for all the problems, this has been a good couple of weeks for public schools. newark's mayor is well on his way to matching a $100 million pledge facebook's mark zuckerberg made to that city's schools. >> we've now been able to match the first 40% of the grant. we've raised $40 million now. >> reporter: and in new york, the mayor announced ibm will invest in the creation of a new six-year high school that will offer an associates degree and much more. >> they will be guarantied a job with ibm and a ticket to the middle class or even beyond.
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>> reporter: one trend in education getting a lot of education is the issue of charter schools. there's been plenty of debate whether they have lived up to their promise of offering a better alternative to struggling neighborhood schools. brian, i know you got an earful yesterday with teachers. people are passionate about this. >> we did. this issue is seeming to pop right now. lester holt starting off our coverage tonight. lester, thanks. this new documentary, "waiting for superman" has been getting a great deal of attention in the last few days and weeks thanks in no small part to one of its stars. jeffrey canada is a long-time educator, started out as a classroom teacher. these days he's ceo of the harlem children's zone, whose public charter schools educate kids really from birthright through college. you're nice to join us. right through college. you're nice to join us. last night, you spoke in terms of the nation, almost in terms of national security. >> you know, this is the problem
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we have, brian. we're the only remaining superpower in the world and we're moving towards a third world education system for our kids. the two things don't equate. i see people and they're trying to hold onto the status quo, they're acting like the kids are doing great. we're not in the top ten, not even in the top 20 anymore and this is a crisis for this nation. we need to do something dramatic to change this. simply pretending that we can keep doing what failed for 10, 20, 30 years to me is a huge disaster waiting to happen in america. >> lester touched on this. the film is largely about charter schools. that's really the -- they're red hot right now and that's the hot button here. what do you like to remind people about charter schools? >> we have to start with the public schools. these are public schools that aren't controlled by these usual rules and regulations. often they don't have unions, so they're allowed to innovate. there are a lot of lousy charter schools and they should be closed and they can be.
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but there's some great innovation going on and we shouldn't be afraid of it. why is everybody afraid to innovate and see things that are working and say, instead of embracing it, people are saying well, that's the charter movement and we're against that. that's a mistake. >> people often kind of bury their heads. this topic depresses a lot of people. they want to concentrate on their own kid's schools. polls always show us, people say that schools are a mess, but our school isn't that bad. what makes you optimistic that there is movement right now? >> here's some stuff that -- you see governor christie with cory booker, republican, democrat, what are they coming together for? for schools. you see the facebook money, ibm. you've got business, you've got the president. you've got everybody focusing on this issue of schools, and that has to be across the whole nation.
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all of us have to accept we're not doing enough and we've got to get in this game. >> as our viewers might gather, you're an optimistic up guy. what gets you down right now? >> you know what? this sense that we have time to wait. i'm watching our nation decline. and it has not happened slowly. people are acting like we've got plenty of time. let's wait three or four years, let's do this study. we need to act on this right now with a sense of urgency that says, look, this is our nation's children and they are going to be running this country in 20 years and what do i see right now? we're in a lot of trouble unless we take action. >> jeffrey canada, a pleasure to have you. >> brian, this is important work you guys are doing on nbc. >> thank you very much. thanks for being here. we'll have more on "education nation" later on in this broadcast, including the latest on president obama's big push into public schools. changing to another news story, the gulf oil spill was back in the news today, specifically the question of how much oil is out there in that water.
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remember that leak went on for 87 days and some folks have led us to believe it's somehow gone away, perhaps dissolving naturally. we learned more about the truth in those waters today. our report from nbc's lisa myers. >> reporter: the two chairman of the administration's oil spill commission expressed skepticism about the government's claim its response was not hamstrung by grossly inaccurate estimates of the size of the spill. >> it's a little bit like custer. he underestimated the number of indians that were going to be on the other side of the hill, and he paid the ultimate price for that. >> reporter: initially, bp and the government estimated only up to 5,000 barrels of oil a day was leaking from the well. government scientists later said it was actually 62,000 barrels a day. incident commander thad allen insists he would not have done anything differently. >> and the reason is, we assumed at the outset this could be a catastrophic event.
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>> reporter: an oceanographer challenged another estimate the white house declaration that 75% of oil spilled into the gulf had been cleaned up or degraded. ian mcdonald says more than half of the oil remains in the gulf and will not dissipate quickly. >> it was the most concentrated and sustained deep water release of oil we've ever seen in human history. >> reporter: a local official of louisiana's plaquemines parish was critical of the government's response from day one, and says he never could figure out who was in charge. >> bp would say it was the coast guard, the coast guard would say it's bp. it became a joke in our eoc that it was the wizard of oz, some guy behind a curtain. because we never got a name. >> reporter: the commission says it will begin making public some findings of its investigation in november. lisa meyers, nbc news, washington. a merger in the flying business to report tonight.
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southwest is moving to buy airtran in a $1.4 billion deal that would unite two big discount carriers. airtran is the former value jet. they have over 100 aircraft and 270 scheduled daily departures. southwest carries more domestic passengers than any other u.s. airline on over 3,500 flights a day. this purchase would expand southwest into 37 more cities. it follows another big merger, continental and united will formally join together later this week. the pilot and crew of a delta commuter flight are getting high marks following an emergency landing over the weekend, all captured on a passenger's video camera. the flight out of atlanta had stuck right landing gear but the veteran pilot jack conroyd brought it in safely at new york's jfk. while out the window sparks were seen flying. 64 people aboard, not a scratch on one of them.
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when the pilot's mom was told the news, she appropriately called her son a hero. when our broadcast continues in a moment on a monday night, more of "education nation." an update on president obama's so-called race to the top initiative. will it really accomplish the stated goal?
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as promised, back with more now from our "education nation" summit. we want to talk about one of president obama's main initiatives for tackling the problem of failing public schools. it's called "race to the top." a competition that just awarded billions of dollars in school funding. as you might imagine, our education correspondent rehema ellis has been a busy woman at this gathering and is here with us tonight with more. rehema? >> as you were talking about "race to the top" is the obama administration's effort to put financial muscle behind the long-standing goal, and that is education reform. it is very early on in this process, but money has been, even before one dime was spent, programs already were starting to talk about some change. tennessee kids are in a national spotlight. 930,000 students in the state's public schools are among the winners in the race to the top.
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their prize? $500 million to help revamp their schools. it's a big deal because 46 states competed. tennessee is one of only 11 states and the district of columbia to win some of the coveted $4 billion in grants. race to the top gives cash to states federal money to jump-start education reform in big ways. that was all tennessee needed to hear. >> tennesseans were quite tired of being 45th and 47th in education and other activities. so everybody had a vested interest in trying to move our state to the top. >> reporter: determined to move quickly, the governor convened a special legislative session. to get "race to the top" funds, tennessee lawmakers scrambled to radically change education laws to close failing schools and link teacher pay to student performance. tennessee also increased the number of charter schools, and agreed to raise academic standards.
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>> that's a true statement. >> reporter: other states did the same, committing to major changes in hopes of winning money for struggling school districting. in a nation where 68% of 8th graders can't read at grade level, race to the top triggered bold promises to overhaul schools, promises from powerful players, often labeled as holdouts against change, legislators, union leaders, and even some teachers. >> i'm not going to tell you that teachers are comfortable with all the changes that have been made or that we're anticipating, but they're willing to at least wait and see. >> reporter: but many education analysts say they already see problems with race to the top. >> it's unlikely to have widespread impact on our schools and there's only a few states that are pushing the envelope and reform in the way that the president has asked them to. >> reporter: still, tennessee's governor says too much is at stake not to try. >> it's the change in the culture of the state and the way we think about education and not
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just tweaking of the funding to get extra money from washington. >> reporter: the challenge now, will that change in thinking lead to the changes in the classroom america's students desperately need? and there are strings attached to this race to the top money. it will be handed out over four years and the department of education will monitor exactly how it's being spent. >> there's talk they're going to do a second campaign, but let's not get ahead of ourselves. a reminder, rehema ellis will be back with us with more from this conference. but when we come back, remembering a woman who became a modern day screen presence late in life.
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a record breaker today in l.a. not just for today's high temperature, but the all-time temperature period. at a few minutes after noon today, it had already climbed to 113 degrees in downtown los angeles. that would make it the hottest day ever recorded in los angeles since they started keeping records. in wisconsin tonight, a shaky levee system still holding
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back the wisconsin river which stood at record levels today, leaving parts of the city of portage completely submerged. there are 60 counties there with high water. state workers with sandbags have been shoring up the levees. many which were built back in the 1890s of sand and wood. experts say the river is expected to hold steady through tomorrow, then drop back to more normal levels, thankfully. an nfl legend has died. george blanda was a genuine iron man with the oakland raiders. as quarterback and placekicker, he scored over 2,000 career points. he played for 26 years. didn't retire until the age of 48, making him a hero to us old guys everywhere. he threw 236 career touchdown passes, and is a member of the pro football hall of fame. george blanda was 83 years old. and gloria stuart has died at the age of 100. she was best known to movie audiences for her comeback role in "titanic" for which she received an academy award
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nomination for her portrayal of a 101-year-old survivor. stuart didn't like film acting, though she starred in 50 of them. she preferred the stage and she preferred painting. she was born in 1910 as a third generation californian. her mother was related to jessie james. gloria francis stuart died at home in los angeles. we're back in a moment with the young woman who rolled a verbal hand grenade into a big gathering of teachers.
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back as promised. one final word on this gathering we're proud of here in new york this week, a gathering that has set the agenda in education today. covering it all, our education correspondent rehema ellis. rehema, we put together this teacher town hall yesterday, and i want to show on the air young teacher rose up during a lightning round of comments from the audience, and said this. >> i think we don't understand tenure. i don't see a need for it. i don't need a piece of paper to tell me i have to be hired. and i think as younger teachers we're seeing a lot of things we need and the union contract is getting in the way. i know in the south bronx, my kids who don't speak english
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need an extra vocabulary bloc. they need an extra phonics bloc. i need extra time to do extra test prep, but we have a union contract that says a school day is 8:20 to 3:30. that's what is so attractive about charter schools. they can do what their kids need. if they need an extra hour on saturday, they bring them in on saturday. i'm not allowed to do that. the reality is, the union contract is in the way. >> whoa. so a new generation comes into education. she just goes over to that third rail and touches it. what do you think? >> it's a generational divide. these folks want to do their job, that's all they want to do. they get into the business of education to do what? make money? no. they get into the business of education to teach kids and see kids learn. she's saying get out of my way, let me do my job. if you don't want to let me do my job, if you don't want to do yours, let's push them out of your way. michelle rhee has been getting a lot of pushback. people said because she took bold action. they asked her to, and when she
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did they got mad because she did exactly what people asked them to do. a young woman, scholastic kid reporter, came up to me today, we did an interview. and i asked her how she felt about what she saw. she said i'm excited but i'm also afraid. because if you don't get it right, i don't know what it's going to mean for me. she's 1 of 54 million reasons why we the grownups have to get it right. >> that's why we invited you to come on the broadcast tonight because nobody can say it better. our education correspondent, rehema ellis. thank you. we're glad you're covering this gathering. glad to be here. a reminder. our coverage of "education nation" will continue tomorrow on this broadcast and on msnbc all day. on the web, by the way, we posted all sorts of resources for teachers and parts on our special website, educationnation.com. it sure has the education community fired up. 10,000 e-mails yesterday morning in 40 minutes time. that's our broadcast for this monday night.
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for all of us, thank you for being with us. i'm brian williams.

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